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Trump Proposes 50% Cut to Amtrak Funding (2018-02-12)

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President Trump proposed again in his budget to cut Amtrak subsidies nearly in half despite a series of accidents that led some lawmakers to propose more funding for the passenger railroad. Trump's budget blueprint proposed Monday to cut grants to the national network for Amtrak from nearly $1.2 billion to $538 million for the year that starts Oct. 1. The budget would also cut grants to the Northeast Corridor from $328 million to $200 million.

 

Link: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/02/12/trump-budget-proposes-again-cut-federal-funding-amtrak-half-which-congress-has-rejected/324039002/

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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As it turns out the $1.5 trillion for infrastructure is mostly a fake - err - aspirational number too. Only $200 Billion of it is from the feds over ten years, with no specific source identified. The rest is coming from somewhere else, mostly from places that do not have the means for covering the $1.3 trillion over ten years apparently.

 

With that kind of arithmetic I could also plan million dollar projects :) Just got to allocate $850 thousand to someone else to cover, and then do a victory lap. :P

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The only difference this time is the language. Last year they proposed elimination of long distance, now they are proposing having the long distance subsidies be split with the states and also eliminating federal subsidies to sleeping cars, dining cars, and checked baggage. That would mean that either the states would have to foot the bill if they want those services, or Amtrak would have to outsource the operation of sleepers and diners, somehow break even on them, or eliminate them. This would obviously be impossible to accomplish in one year. And obviously any route which fails to get state support would be cancelled. Basically all Amtrak routes besides the NEC would have to be state-supported.

Edited by lordsigma

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Typical politics, but Congress rarely ever considers the budget proposed by the WH. So what the various committees in the House and Senate do is what will be critical. Also, no budget has been passed in recent years.

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Typical politics, but Congress rarely ever considers the budget proposed by the WH. So what the various committees in the House and Senate do is what will be critical.

Exactly. A White House budget is dead on arrival no matter whats in it. Accomplishes nothing more than causing the ill advised to panic and scream the sky is falling. We go through this same thing year after year.

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Remember W's "Do the Math" quote.

 

In Washington they can't and don't, so "Smoke and Mirrors" is the result.

 

Figures never Lie and Liars never figure!🤔

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From the Wonkette:

 

Donald Trump's Infrastructure Plan tinier than his sad little Peener ...

 

 


Donald Trump today unveiled his amazing fabulous infrastructure plan, a microscopic $200 billion federal investment over 10 years. It’s a piddling nothing of federal spending, and even that $200 billion will be paid for by cutting other infrastructure commitments. So when Donald Trump smiles and talks about his “1.5 trillion” in investments, keep in mind he’s lying — the rest of the money in that amount would supposedly be provided by private industry and state and local governments, but even if it materialized, the plan is unlikely to do a hell of a lot for America’s falling-apart roads, bridges, tunnels, sewers, airports, electrical grid, and other physical infrastructure, because the real motive here is — you may sense a theme with this administration — to funnel money to the real estate and construction industries, regardless of the actual public infrastructure needs.
Read more at https://wonkette.com/629650/donald-trumps-infrastructure-plan-actually-tinier-than-his-sad-little-peener#CJKjTRLLz1UQ9ywO.99

 

Apparently part of what will fund this fabulous sum of $20 billion per year is reducing funds for things like Amtrak and other infrastructure related existing funding streams ....

Edited by jis

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As it turns out the $1.5 trillion for infrastructure is mostly a fake - err - aspirational number too. Only $200 Billion of it is from the feds over ten years, with no specific source identified. The rest is coming from somewhere else, mostly from places that do not have the means for covering the $1.3 trillion over ten years apparently.

 

With that kind of arithmetic I could also plan million dollar projects :) Just got to allocate $850 thousand to someone else to cover, and then do a victory lap. :P

 

And the $200 billion infrastructure "plan" is funded by reducing spending on other infrastructure, among other things...as I see you just now posted.

Edited by Eric S

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Typical politics, but Congress rarely ever considers the budget proposed by the WH. So what the various committees in the House and Senate do is what will be critical.

Exactly. A White House budget is dead on arrival no matter whats in it. Accomplishes nothing more than causing the ill advised to panic and scream the sky is falling. We go through this same thing year after year.

Presidential budget proposals give us some insight into the executive branch's interest and support levels for passenger rail in general and Amtrak in particular. It also gives us a catalyst and a starting point for discussing the issue with our senators and representatives. Nothing more and nothing less. If you have an example of someone screaming or panicking then by all means please quote them here so we can set the record straight. If you do not have any such examples then please put this false narrative to rest.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Yeah, it is just the point at which the annual budget battle is joined. There will be some who will sit on the sidelines chiding other about panicking even when all this done is to bring the issue to people's attention, and otherwise pontificating from their arm chairs, and there will be others like us in the trenches working to preserve the passenger rail system, who will go to the mat, like every other year. There is no telling what Congress left to itself will or will not do. If one believes in preserving and growing passenger rail it is imperative to join the advocacy battle instead of sitting sanguine in the belief that Congress will by itself make it right. It won't. One has to get involved in influencing the direction taken by the Committees that Lonestar mentions.

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The only difference this time is the language. Last year they proposed elimination of long distance, now they are proposing having the long distance subsidies be split with the states and also eliminating federal subsidies to sleeping cars, dining cars, and checked baggage. That would mean that either the states would have to foot the bill if they want those services, or Amtrak would have to outsource the operation of sleepers and diners, somehow break even on them, or eliminate them. This would obviously be impossible to accomplish in one year. And obviously any route which fails to get state support would be cancelled. Basically all Amtrak routes besides the NEC would have to be state-supported.

 

Amtrak already breaks even (makes money) on sleeper cars.

 

Anyway, the President's "budget" has already been described as "dead on arrival" by no less than Bloomberg. It's dead. Lobby Congress, who is starting from a completely different budget already.

 

Did you notice that the "aspirational" Presidents' budgets are backing off? Under GWB it was "zero out Amtrak", last year it was "zero out long distance", this year it's "make states pay for *part of* long distance and attempt to kill dining cars and checked baggage". I think this is a good sign.

Edited by neroden

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Typical politics, but Congress rarely ever considers the budget proposed by the WH. So what the various committees in the House and Senate do is what will be critical.

Exactly. A White House budget is dead on arrival no matter whats in it.

 

You know, I'm just old enough to remember when the White House budget was used as a basis for Congress's budget. It happened as recently as the Clinton administration, and it happened in the G H W Bush administration, and the Reagan administration, and the Carter administration.

 

George W Bush submitted such ridiculous budgets that Congress stopped paying attention to them at all, and that has stuck.

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Unfortunately, this proposed infrastructure plan is highly based on the states and local governments coming up with matching funds, which is how much of the work is now being done. But states like Ohio have continued to reduce taxes to a point where there is no shared money left. Cities and small towns are left to raise taxes at the local level to fund projects. Now some would argue that if the people in a community want new roads, new bridges, new rail lines, they are going to have to levy themselves via tax hikes to pay for it.

Awareness has finally reached our local boards, councils and commissions that all the tax cuts in Columbus have left the state government with little money to distribute to localities and thus taxes need to be raised there to have improvements. Many areas of our state are so poor that they cannot raise taxes to acquire the needed funds to pave roads or fix sewer systems.

And the chances of any state money being used for improving rail service in Ohio are little and none. I await the reaction to the president's infrastructure budget since much of it, as earlier noted, is a smoke and mirrors plan that will likely have difficulty in passing in the House, when the people figure out that most of the infrastructure funding is going to come directly out of their pockets.

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Poor Ohio. Just enough "I don't need any functioning government" rural voters to cripple the state.

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I got an idea, let's cut infrastructure to pay for infrastructure. You could see where some routes could maybe be shifted to states over time and maybe down the road that's worth exploring, but this would take a multi-year process and you wouldn't be able to halve the federal subsidies in one year. Florida as a big beneficiary of LD trains I could see playing ball and subsidizing its LD trains, and California would probably move to save the Coast Starlight. I don't see how you transition the hugely long east-west routes to the states though since you'd undoubtedly have some states that would act and others that wouldn't so the interested ones would have to foot the bill for the whole route. Already have some of that now with some of the existing state service. New Hampshire gets service from the Vermonter and Downeaster and doesn't participate in either, but we're also not talking anywhere near the subsidies with that example.

Edited by lordsigma

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Unfortunately, this proposed infrastructure plan is highly based on the states and local governments coming up with matching funds, which is how much of the work is now being done. But states like Ohio have continued to reduce taxes to a point where there is no shared money left. Cities and small towns are left to raise taxes at the local level to fund projects. Now some would argue that if the people in a community want new roads, new bridges, new rail lines, they are going to have to levy themselves via tax hikes to pay for it.

Awareness has finally reached our local boards, councils and commissions that all the tax cuts in Columbus have left the state government with little money to distribute to localities and thus taxes need to be raised there to have improvements. Many areas of our state are so poor that they cannot raise taxes to acquire the needed funds to pave roads or fix sewer systems.

And the chances of any state money being used for improving rail service in Ohio are little and none. I await the reaction to the president's infrastructure budget since much of it, as earlier noted, is a smoke and mirrors plan that will likely have difficulty in passing in the House, when the people figure out that most of the infrastructure funding is going to come directly out of their pockets.

 

Being an Ohioan, I so agree with your comments about what is taking place in our State. It makes the State "statesmen" look so good by providing State Income Tax cuts while the local officials are trying to figure out how "to do more with less" from the State. I do think the average citizen is starting to become aware of what the State is "putting back into their pocket" is having to be spent by them to just maintain the services we now have.

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"when the people figure out that most of the infrastructure funding is going to come directly out of their pockets."

 

How could it be otherwise? Seriously. The only other source I can think of is foreign borrowing.

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Poor Ohio. Just enough "I don't need any functioning government" rural voters to cripple the state.

 

OFF TOPIC: There are also just enough "we don't need a functioning government" states to cripple our entire country at this point. The most exasperating aspect of this whole experiment is how distant and unlikely a practical and equitable solution seems at this point. When half the country has been so completely demonized that the other half is willing to ignore signs of foreign meddling on their behalf you know the gig is almost up.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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I got an idea, let's cut infrastructure to pay for infrastructure. You could see where some routes could maybe be shifted to states over time and maybe down the road that's worth exploring, but this would take a multi-year process and you wouldn't be able to halve the federal subsidies in one year. Florida as a big beneficiary of LD trains I could see playing ball and subsidizing its LD trains, and California would probably move to save the Coast Starlight. I don't see how you transition the hugely long east-west routes to the states though since you'd undoubtedly have some states that would act and others that wouldn't so the interested ones would have to foot the bill for the whole route. Already have some of that now with some of the existing state service. New Hampshire gets service from the Vermonter and Downeaster and doesn't participate in either, but we're also not talking anywhere near the subsidies with that example.

 

Florida is a big tourism state so I'd imagine a lot of ORL, MIA, and TPA passengers are passengers originate out of state. I'd want the Silver Star/Meteor being a PA resident as much as the Florida residents. Same with the SWC/CZ as I wouldn't be able to get to California without them. So those trains aren't just for Florida/California. You can tell which states aren't tourism states and which trains really are just trains that benefit specific states only and those are the ones that should be funded more by the states that benefit more from those trains.

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There are many states on the verge of bankruptcy, so how can they find more money when like Illinois they can't pay the LOTTO winners for several years back. Other states are cutting services to the bone. I just do not see every state coughing up the expected funds to do the infrastructure improvements the WH is expecting.

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I find the proposed sale of Dulles and National airports to be interesting. Privatizing these seems to be a no-brainer.

 

Too bad all the frequency licenses are pretty much spoken for, I believe. I worked with someone who turned a low six figure investment into the low seven figures in the 1980s before the feds wised up and started auctioning instead of just collecting capital gains. Sadly, I was about six months late to the party.

 

Of course we could start using offshore oil auctions to fund infrastructure. Have my doubts some board members would like that idea, however.

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

Edited by Carolina Special

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Typical politics, but Congress rarely ever considers the budget proposed by the WH. So what the various committees in the House and Senate do is what will be critical.

Exactly. A White House budget is dead on arrival no matter whats in it. Accomplishes nothing more than causing the ill advised to panic and scream the sky is falling. We go through this same thing year after year.
Presidential budget proposals give us some insight into the executive branch's interest and support levels for passenger rail in general and Amtrak in particular. It also gives us a catalyst and a starting point for discussing the issue with our senators and representatives. Nothing more and nothing less. If you have an example of someone screaming or panicking then by all means please quote them here so we can set the record straight. If you do not have any such examples then please put this false narrative to rest.
Shared from Facebook, someone posted QUOTE:

[book that Long Distance train trip NOW!

The system will see dramatic cuts after this summer]

 

That is absolutely an example of someone spreading what at this point is a false narrative.

Edited by KnightRail

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Quote from Trump's Budget:

"Reforms Amtrak Long Distance Services. While Amtrak has in recent years improved its ridership and revenue on the Northeast Corridor and State Supported Routes, Amtrak continues to rely exclusively on Federal subsidies to operate long distance train routes, which have large operating losses and serve a small number of passengers. The Budget proposes reforms to Amtrak to improve efficiencies in long distance services and reduce reliance of the Federal Government. In particular, the Budget proposes that States begin to share the operating subsidy costs of Long Distance routes with the Federal Government. This would make States more equal partners with the Federal Government, and would strengthen the responsiveness of Amtrak to the communities they serve. State contributions to long distance routes is only one tool in the menu of options for reform the Administration will be exploring to improve the current system and reduce Federal subsidies in the Long Distance network."

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